Tagged: Superboy

Martha Thomases’ School Daze


The week after Labor Day is the traditional beginning of the school year. Yes, #NotAllSchools, but enough.

When I was in elementary school, the first day was a big deal. My mom and I had spent a lot of time over the summer selecting my new clothes, usually an activity that included lots of arguments. (I hated wearing uniforms at boarding school, but it did reduce the fighting at home.) On that first day I wanted to show off my favorite selections, so I usually spent all of my class time sweating through my lovely winter jumper with coordinating turtleneck sweater.

Naturally, I wondered how superheroes would fare. I don’t mean those lucky enough to have classes that catered to their specific mutations or skills, but regular school, with tiny milk cartons in the cafeteria and bullies at recess.

I remember Superboy and Supergirl stories from my youth where they would be stuck in class while their super-hearing picked up some disaster that needed their attention. They had robots available for such occasions, although I do not remember any stories in which those robots had to take tests or get punched in the face. Today, we can read about Moon Girl and her issues with being smarter than her classmates (as well as trying to keep a dinosaur secret). Her powers are the least of her problems.

As usual, I wonder about superheroes with more esoteric powers. Mind-readers like Saturn Girl could cheat on tests simply by barging into the thoughts of the teacher. She could also get completely icked-out simply by walking past the boys locker room… but that also happens to girls who aren’t telepathic.

Matt Murdock could avoid bullies by sensing when they were planning to punch him out. He could probably also tell when the lunch lady lost a hair (or worse) in his food. Matter-Eater Lad could avoid cafeteria problems altogether. He’d have no reason to fear  mystery meat when the tray would be a satisfying substitute lunch.

Truly, there are few situations in which it is not amusing to imagine Matter-Eater Lad.

Individual problems and opportunities for individual students might present story opportunities, but the conditions of our schools, physically and structurally, are the real outrage. Public schools are constantly forced to do more with less. No matter how much money any particular municipality might budget towards them, an insufficient percentage trickles down to individual teachers in individual classrooms.

Even worse, there is increasing pressure on students to pass specific kinds of tests that purport to measure their learning but are more likely to measure their ability to take tests. Some groups want to eliminate arts education to focus on science, math and technology, as if math and science don’t benefit from people with artistic imaginations.

Children, even those without super-powers, are each unique. I know there are those who don’t like it when someone points out that everyone is special, but they are wrong. I learn at a different pace and in a different way than you do. Schools should take this into account. No, we shouldn’t lower standards and pass kids from one grade to the next purely for social reasons. Diplomas should indicate a level of accomplishment, and we should have a nondiscriminatory way to measure this… although I don’t know what this would be.

I was always good at taking standardized tests, usually placing in the 99th percentile. This helped my parents with their bragging rights but did nothing to indicate that, for example, I was terrible at memorizing, especially foreign language vocabulary words. If there had been a way to catch that earlier, I might be able to spend more time in Paris.

My point (and I do have one) is that schools don’t have to be places of boredom and terror. We could treat our kids with more love and respect, appreciating their differences in a way that celebrates their victories and nurtures them when they fail.

I thought of this while listening to Dean Haspiel give the keynote address at the Harvey Awards last weekend. Dean talked about the challenges of being a freelance artist in a culture that values neither art nor freelancers. After a lifetime in New York working with colleagues in a studio in a building with loads of other artists, Dean admitted that he is considering leaving.

New York City drew me here because it was a place where one could meet artists and writers and rock stars and poets and radical activists. It was a great place to raise my kid, who went to public school with kids who spoke Spanish, Russian, Chinese and lots of other languages at home, and who might live in shelters or brownstones, projects or penthouses.

That doesn’t happen anymore.

Those of us who value each other’s special abilities should consider finding a town in decline and moving in en masse. We could work together to provide the services we want, and we could live close enough to each other so we could ease the trauma of moving. We could volunteer at libraries and schools and summer camps so all the kids who feel like mutants would know we think that’s a good thing.

And we could install air-conditioning in the schools so that, if I show up on the first day, I can wear my best new outfit.

Mike Gold: Bizarro – Who Am Him?

Bizarro Strip

One of the most enduring DC Comics creations, Bizarro has been with us since 1958 – either debuting in the Superman newspaper strip, according to editor Mort Weisinger, or in Superboy #68 according to where most baby boomers first found him. Either way, that original Bizarro was quite a different being than he is today. In fact, the personality, appearance and modus operandi of Superman’s brother-in-harms seem to differ with just about every use.

Bizarro 1Originally Bizarro was a sympathetic character, the result of an experiment that didn’t quite work. Half-Frankenstein’s monster, half-Quasimodo; he was a manufactured man who grew the most human of hearts over the course of his initial appearance in both the Superman strip and the Superboy story.

That Superboy story sold like a sumbych. Editor Weisinger started putting him in every Superman family title he could – cross-editor crossovers didn’t exist in 1958, except for the Superman/Batman stories in World’s Finest. In less than three years Adventure Comics cover-featured an ongoing Tales of the Bizarro World series.

In this series all the pith was removed and the creature and the stories were played for laughs. That wasn’t hard, as Bizarro’s superpower was to be and do the opposite of what the “normal” did. By now he had his own planet populated by equally imperfect duplications of other beings from both the reader’s universe and DC’s. Bizarro even introduced the Bizarro President Kennedy to the Bizarro Marilyn Monroe. This happened years before we found out that the real Kennedy and Monroe were making the beast with two backs right there in the people’s White House.

bizarro01Weisinger was a very, very well-connected man and he had many friends in high places. In 1976 I asked Mort if he had inside information at the time. He glowed, looked at me and said: “You know what they say.” I replied “Ummm… If I told you I’d have to kill you?” and Mort said “That’s right.”

The Tales of the Bizarro World stories lacked tension and the type of heroic action one associates with superhero comics, and because gravity does work it was necessarily lacking in internal consistency. After a little more than a year, Tales of the Bizarro World was replaced with Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and that ran for about seven years.

You can’t keep a good creature down, and Bizarro has reappeared with a frequency exceeded only by The Joker. But, as I noted at the outset, there was no external consistency to the character. He was a goofy monster, he was a confused construct, he was (most frequently) a monster who acted as a super-villain but with the motivation of a guy who simply does the opposite of what Superman would do. Maybe.

Bizarro 2I wish somebody would sit down and read Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein, published in the 1940s by Prize Comics. Many reprints abound; to start I’d recommend the one Yoe Books and IDW did in 2010. If you’ve never heard of it, it may very well be the best American comic book you’ve never heard of. Briefer is in the same league as Eisner, Cole and Toth, and he managed to tell a great many stories without tripping over the concept. Frankenstein was sympathetic and heroic, pithy and funny, and always a joy to read.

I like Bizarro, particularly that original newspaper comics story. And I like many of the various interpretations of the character that have come our way in the subsequent 58 years. Some are truly brilliant.

Despite DC’s multi-purpose guardianship over the decades, Bizarro has become an accepted term in the English language. The term “Bizarro World” is often used as a metaphor. It’s even in most computer spell-checkers.

And, really, who among us can’t identify with a character is constantly misunderstood?

Mike Gold: Super-Puberty!


I was walking through Grand Central Terminal yesterday on my way to one of our more entertaining ComicMix senior staff meetings. Grand Central is my favorite place in all of New York City – the massive cathedral ceilings, the stunning pre-Great War architecture, the clean and open lanes for pedestrian traffic… It’s really very inspiring, and, indeed, I was inspired to write this particular column.

For absolutely no reason whatsoever, I started thinking about Superman’s adolescence. Oh, I was influenced by the first issue of Max Landis’s Superman: Alien American, a solid and worthy start to the mini-series. But that, in turn, reminded me of some of my favorite Superboy stories from my ancient and decrepit youth – those where Pa Kent patiently taught his son how to manage, deploy and exacerbate his Kryptonian powers.

SuperboyThose were sweet stories with which most members of its target audience could identify. Our parents were busy teaching us how to ride our bikes, build model planes and monsters, and make decisions based upon common sense and not on impulse. Learning how to fly was just one step beyond.

We already knew that young Clark would make it into adulthood, but discovering the hows and the whys was quite comforting. However, given the Comics Code Authority as well as the marketing sentiments of the time, there were areas undocumented in Superboy and in Adventure Comics.

I am speaking of the dreadful but necessary curse of puberty, and I am addressing this subject from the perspective of boys in the very early Sixties. Girls had their own crosses to bare, but neither Clark nor I are in any position to comment from experience. I’d say something like “but I can only imagine” but that would be really creepy.

Obviously, Clark would start growing hair in places previously barren of foliage. Being smart than the average bear, he would have understood this and probably feel he was becoming a man. But those are super-hormones kicking in. That would be particularly messy, and it could have been rather dangerous to his family, to the farm animals, and to the buildings on the Kent Farm property. We’re better off not knowing. For one thing, the cover shot would be against Code.

As puberty intrudes, Clark’s voice would start to change. To be specific, it would crack. I do not know what sort of impact such cracking sound would have on nearby windows, champagne glasses, eardrums… think of the Grateful Dead using a chalkboard as a heavily amplified musical instrument. Before long, his voice would settle down into a nice adult groove, but I think Clark might “keep” his pre-puberty voice for Clark and his post-puberty voice for the Man of Steel. Hey, it worked for Bud Collyer (pictured above), the first actor to play the role on radio and in the Fleisher cartoons.

He’s also go through rather amazing growth spurts that would wreck havoc with Clark’s civilian clothing and the Kent family budget. All parents go through this, but not on a Kryptonian scale. He’d shred his clothes and shoes, and probably confuse the hell out of Krypto.

Of course, if Clark was a typical American Earthling entering adolescence – and he was raised to be just that – that X-Ray vision would help him get though many a dark night. No need for him to smuggle in copies of Playboy and Caviler. But, being raised in Kansas by caring members of society, I would think that Clark would quickly understand that with great hormones comes great guilt.

At least I’d hope so.

A few years later, The Who would record “I Can See for Miles.” Well, Clark could do that already. Would his concern for his secret identity stop him from reacting to Lana Lang slipping out with Pete Ross? I doubt it.

Being of that age, Clark would quietly use his powers to turn that date into the road show for Carrie. He’d stop Pete and any other potential suitors cold. If Clark Kent were Reggie Mantle, Archie Andrews would be a priest.

Thankfully, Clark Kent is not Peter Pan. I’m sure he would endeavor to do the right thing. But, puberty is a bitch… and high school is worse. All this is in preparation for one single event.

Losing one’s virginity.

Losing one’s super-virginity.

Mindy Newell: Old Dog, New Tricks

Super-Pets 1962

My family went to the Turtleback Zoo yesterday – great zoo, by the way, may I suggest a visit if you live anywhere near West Orange, New Jersey – and driving home I thought about the Legion of Super-Pets. A very strange connection to make, but that’s the mysterious way in which my mind works.

You young ‘uns out there (very much) probably don’t know what I’m talking about, but once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, in a time that would come to be called the Silver Age, incredible tales of fantastical dreams and magical possibilities were told – of lost planets, of cities and their populations living inside bottles, of an alien and his doomed love for a mermaid, of traveling through time in a bubble, and of astonishing heroes gifted with the powers of the gods. And among these tales there was the story of these heroes’ pets, a band of animals also gifted with the powers of the gods, who one day saved the planet Earth from the evil Brain-Globes of Rambat.

Okay, I know, a little too much purple prose there for these cynical times.

Created by Jerry Siegel and Curt Swan and first appearing in Adventure Comics #293 (February 1962) – and no, that’s not a Twitter hash tag, kids – the Legion of Super-Pets consisted of Superboy’s dog, Krypto; Supergirl’s cat, Streaky, and her horse, Comet; and Beppo, a Kryptonian chimpanzee who had been the “test pilot” for one of Jor-el’s early trial flights of a rocket before the destruction of Krypton.

The concept of a Legion of Super-Pets could never sell today, unless the innocence of that Silver Age was twisted into something brittle and corrupted, sarcastic and mocking, distrustful and dirty. Krypto gets rabies, kills Superboy, and goes on a mad rampage, finally dying in a horrific epileptic fit caused by the disease. Comet, a pedophiliac centaur turned into a horse by the Goddess Diana when he raped one of her Vestal Virgins, is now ridden by Supergirl instead of him, uh, “riding” her. Streaky is a malevolent cat vomiting up radioactive hairballs all over the Earth. And Beppo hunts down and kills the poachers who killed Dian Fossey.

I actually approve of that last part. Go, Beppo!

It’s actually not a bad idea. Maybe I’ll work on it.

Superboy: “Heel, Krypto.”


Superboy: “I said Heel!”


Superboy: “What the fu–!!!”

Sometimes it’s a little scary, the things my mind comes up with.